Early Development Challenges for Drug Products Containing Nanomaterials

AAPS J. 2017 Jan;19(1):92-102. doi: 10.1208/s12248-016-9980-4. Epub 2016 Sep 9.


The vast majority of drug product candidates in early development fail to progress to clinics. This is true for products containing nanomaterials just as for other types of pharmaceuticals. Early development pathways should therefore place high priority on experiments that help candidates fail faster and less expensively. Nanomedicines fail for many reasons, but some are more avoidable than others. Some of the points of failure are not considerations in the development of small molecules or biopharmaceuticals, and so may be unexpected, even to those with previous experience bringing drug products to the clinic. This article reviews experiments that have proven useful in providing "go/no-go" decision-making data for nanomedicines in early preclinical development. Of course, the specifics depend on the particulars of the drug product and the nanomaterial type, and not every product shares the same development pathway or the same potential points of failure. Here, we focus on challenges that differ from those in the development of traditional small molecule therapeutics, and on experiments that reveal deficiencies that can only be corrected by essentially starting over-altering the nanomedicine to an extent that all previous characterization and proof-of-concept testing must be repeated. Conducting these experiments early in the development process can save significant resources and time and allow developers to focus on derisked candidates with a greater likelihood of ultimate success.

Keywords: drug delivery; drug development; nanomedicine; preclinical; targeted delivery.

MeSH terms

  • Drug Discovery / methods*
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Drug Liberation
  • Drug Stability
  • Nanostructures / chemistry*
  • Nanostructures / standards
  • Nanotechnology / methods*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / blood
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / standards
  • Small Molecule Libraries / chemistry*
  • Small Molecule Libraries / standards


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Small Molecule Libraries